Previously: Le Loyon.
Type: UL (Unexplained Location).
Period/location of origin: Early Showa era, Aomori Prefecture, Japan.
Appearance: Subject, known as Sugisawa Village and frequently referred to as “the village that was erased from the map,” appears to be a small village in the mountains of Aomori Prefecture, Japan which does not exist — or at least, not as far as the maps go. Although the abandoned remains of the village may be found by the persistent, its name, “Sugisawa,” has been removed from any and all maps of the area; additionally, all official records of the village have been destroyed. (NOTE: For CONTENT WARNINGS, please click here.)
Subject is difficult to find, as it is not located on the main road and only reachable by abandoning that road and going off-path. However, the entrance to subject, if located, is marked by several indicators: First, a sign reading, “ここから先へ立ち入る者 命の保証はない”— roughly, “For those who enter beyond here, there is no guarantee of life”; second, an old and decayed torii gate, sometimes describe as red and other times as “tea-colored”; and third, positioned beneath the torii gate, a stone that closely resembles the shape of a human skull.
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Beyond the torii gate, four to six buildings remain standing in what was once the village. Inside the buildings, the walls are decorated red.
The red is not paint.
Modus operandi: Subject’s precise modus operandi is difficult to identify; it is not clear whether subject itself selects and lures in targets, and if so, to what end.
According to most accounts, those who have located subject have done so accidentally, typically by inadvertently driving up to subject’s entrance, although in at least one instance, while mountain-climbing and on foot. Several accounts have reported the development unusual weather in the area just prior to the discovery of subject — rain, fog, snow, etc. It is unclear whether subject creates its own weather independent of the weather elsewhere in the area, or whether these unusual meteorological events are merely a coincidence.
Wise accidental visitors have, upon discovering one or more of the sign, the torii gate, and/or the skull-shaped stone, have immediately turned around and left the area. Those who were less wise, however, have ventured further into the abandoned village on foot.
These targets — the ones who entered Sugisawa, rather than leave — have reported experiencing an unsettling presence as they explored. The presence has been described differently by different reports; it may seem to indicate a single being, or it may indicate a large crowd.
In the case of the presence belonging to a single being, targets may run into a strange man with pale skin and blue eyes and wearing a straw hat. Should targets attempt to speak to or otherwise engage with the “man,” he will initially remain unresponsive and silent. He may, however, eventually attempt to attack targets, rushing towards them at great speed while screaming in an unearthly fashion.
In the case of the presence belonging to a large crowd, targets may become uneasy, feeling as though they are being observed by an entire village worth of “people.” The observers may or may not be visible to targets; they will, however, be felt. Keenly.
At least one set of targets experienced difficulty returning to and starting their vehicle after encountering the presence. Upon fleeing subject after feeling as if they were “being surrounded by a large number of people,” these targets found themselves unable to close the distance between themselves and their vehicle for an extended period of time — no matter how far, how long, or how fast they ran. Only one of these targets was eventually able to reach the car; when she did, she found that the vehicle would not start, the engine refusing to turn over repeatedly. (This target was eventually found by a passerby, but her two companions were never located.)
According to at least one report, some visitors to the village later have expired unexpectedly and prematurely. Others, however, have simply disappeared, never to be seen again. As such, subject is also sometimes referred to as “Sugisawa, the cursed village.”
Those who have stumbled upon subject and left without incident have found that attempts to relocate the village at a later date result in failure. It is simply… not there.
It is possible that subject’s modus operandi is nothing more complex than to satisfy its own hunger. It may, in theory, lure targets close, ensnare those who are willful enough to enter, and then snatch them up in order to paint more red on its buildings’ walls. Those who are wise enough to avoid the trap are, therefore, deemed unsuitable prey; thus, subject hides itself from these escaped would-be targets, rendering itself inaccessible to them in the future.
Containment: Unknown. Potentially impossible. Removing it from the map didn’t help, so why would anything else?
Additional notes: Subject’s origin story is typically identified as an event said to have occurred many generations ago within subject’s borders. Reportedly, a male resident of the village suddenly and without warning went on a rampage with a hatchet, wiping out the village’s entire population along with himself. The local government, horrified by these events, allegedly then made moves to cover up not only the incident itself, but the existence of the entire village, as well. Accordingly, the name “Sugisawa” was allegedly removed from all maps of the area, and all records of Sugisawa’s existence allegedly disposed of. The village was left alone, abandoned and unpopulated, for decades thereafter.
The precise date of the incident is not typically given, although it is sometimes identified as having occurred during the early years of the Showa era. This would place the incident as having occurred sometime in the late 1920s or in the 1930s, as the Showa era spanned from 1926 through 1989. Note, though, that although this period is sometimes identified as the date of subject’s origin, the village itself obviously existed prior to the incident that literally wiped it off the maps. It is unknown when the village itself was originally founded.
Whether subject’s curse arose as a result of the incident, or whether the incident arose from subject’s curse — that is, whether the incident led to subject’s cursed nature, or whether the curse caused the incident to occur — has not been determined.
Whether the man with pale skin, blue eyes, and straw hat is somehow connected to the resident responsible for the rampage has also not been determined.
While the torii gate and the stone said to mark the entrance of subject may well have been present before the village was wiped off the maps, it is unknown who may have placed the sign there along with them — the one reading, “For those who enter beyond here, there is no guarantee of life.” It may have been government officials, who, as a final act before they removed the records of subject from the annals of history, wished to place a warning where subject remained in order to prevent another such incident occurring… but then again, if said government was determined to pretend that subject had never existed at all, this action may be viewed as somewhat inconsistent with that stance.
For now — and, likely, forever — the mystery remains.
Documentation of subject began online circa the late 1990s. In 1997, for instance, the website 七不思議, or Seven Wonders, included a mention of Sugisawa Village in its page about mysteries located in the Hokkaido/Tohoku region, of which Aomori is part. Following a link on that page led to another page with additional detail. Over the years, this additional page has been expanded upon, and now includes a fairly sizable collection of stories and possible evidence regarding the existence of subject.
In 2000, knowledge of subject was made common by the television program Kiseki Taiken Unbelievable. (See also: Hikaru-san’s Painting.) On Aug. 24 of that year, the program aired a special episode in which the presenters attempted to locate subject. They were unable to do so, and arrived at the conclusion that subject must exist within some kind of space-time warp, becoming accessible only occasionally and under specific circumstances.
(This episode is not easily accessed for viewing; however, a detailed summary of its contents may be found here.)
Further stories about subject has spread via online communities all the way up through the present. Additionally, following the rise of YouTube and other video-based platforms, many have attempted to follow in Kiseki Taiken Unbelievable’s footsteps and made efforts to locate the village. None have, as far as this researcher is aware, succeeded.
NOTE: This is all, of course, assuming that subject exists at all. Here is an alternate view:
Subject did not exist prior to the 1990s, let alone in the 1920s or ‘30s. Born of the internet, the story about the village is the subject — not the village itself.
Assuming that subject is the legend, not the village, it is believed that subject may have been inspired by the real-life historical incident known widely as the Tsuyama Incident. On May 21, 1938 — roughly around the time that the rampage in the Sugisawa Village legend is meant to have taken place — 21-year-old Mutsuo Toi went on a similar rampage in the rural village of Kamo, near the city of Tsuyama in Okayama Prefecture.
This tragedy is thought by some to have formed the basis of subject’s origin story, although Okayama and Aomori are more than a thousand kilometers apart. (Okayama is located in the southern regions of the island of Honshu, while Aomori is located all the way north of the same island.) How, precisely, it made the jump from one geographical area to the other for the purposes of subject’s story is unknown.
A further historical incident that may have lent inspiration to the story of subject is the Shinwa village family case, per the 2015 book 元報道記者が見た昭和事件史 : 歴史から抹殺された惨劇の記錄 (History of the Showa Incident as Seen by a Former Reporter: Records of Tragedy Erased from History) by Kiyoshi Ishikawa. The link may be a bit more tenuous here, but it is worth mentioning for completion’s sake.
There was once a Kosugi village in Aomori City’s Obatakezawa district which did reportedly become abandoned over time; however, this was simply due to depopulation, rather than via the manner describe by subject’s origin story. Additionally, several other villages and place names bearing the moniker Sugisawa exist in locations such as Namioka (formerly Namioka Town), Nanbu Town, and Sannohe Town, but they are unrelated to subject.
It is sometimes said — for instance, in an article published in the Aomori-based newspaper 東奥日報 (To-O Nippo) in 2003 — that the Sugisawa Village legend may have formed the basis for the Seishi Yokomizo detective novel 八つ墓村 (Yatsuhakamura), or The Village Of Eight Graves. In this novel, an entry into Yokomizo’s popular Kosuke Kindaichi series. a massacre similar to the one alleged to have taken place in Sugisawa factors prominently. However, it is also possible—and, in all probability, more likely — that The Village Of Eight Graves served as the inspiration for the Sugisawa Village legend instead.
Which, if either, is correct depends entirely on when the story of subject truly began: The Village Of Eight Graves was originally serialized in the magazine 新青年(Shinseinen) between March of 1949 and March of 1950. If the Sugisawa Village legend is solely an internet-based piece of lore, then it cannot, by definition, have inspired the novel, which predates both it and the internet at large by many decades.
It is known that Yokomizo drew inspiration from the Tsuyama Incident from 1938 previously connected to the Sugisawa Village story. As such, it is unsurprising that these two fictional tales seem to share some DNA.
For the curious, The Village Of Eight Graves was translated into English by Bryan Karetnyk in 2021. It is published by Pushkin Vertigo/Penguin Random House.
Recommendation: Don’t go looking for subject.
Don’t go not looking for subject, either.
And if you see an old torii gate, and a stone shaped like a skull, and a sign that tells you that there is no guarantee of life beyond that point…
…You’d best turn around and go right back the way you came.
“Disappeared Village” at Seven Wonders. (In Japanese.)
“Hot Topic On The Internet: Aomori Sugisawa Village Legend” at To-O Nippo. (In Japanese.)
“The Fictionality and Territory of Internet Urban Legends” by Yonezu Umi. (Academic work; in Japanese. Also contains some interesting commentary on Kune Kune.)
“Sugisawa Village” at Fascination World. (In Japanese.)
Description of the Sugisawa episode of Kiseki Taiken Unbelievable, Aug. 24, 2000, at Light As A Feather. (In Japanese.)
Toshiden: Exploring Japanese Urban Legends – episode “The Curse Of Sugisawa, The Lost Village.”
“Sign In The Mountains” at Kowabana.net.
Information about the Tsuyama Incident in the Japan Times.
The Village Of Eight Graves by Seishi Yokomizo, tr. Bryan Karetnyk.
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[Photos via dep377, Michelle_Maria/Pixabay; Lucia Peters (2)/The Ghost In My Machine]
(CW: Suicide, homicide.)
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